Studying in South Korea

I have been in South Korea for about two weeks, getting settled in the dorms at Yonsei University and preparing for classes. Time hasn’t been on my side until now.

My name is Tatiana Cubas and I am a student at the University of South Florida St. Petersburg. I am a mass communications major, which is the reason I decided to join the exchange program to study in South Korea this spring. Yonsei University provides courses that count toward my degree.

It was easy to sign up for the program but it was stressful with all the paperwork and funds to worry about. At one point I wanted to quit and stay home just so the stress would go away. However, a friend of mine told me to keep going because I would regret it if I quit. Leaving my family was hard and the flights were a bit harder. Since I live in Florida, my flights had to depart from Tampa, Chicago, Japan and then finally arrive to South Korea. It was an extremely long day but thankfully none of the flights were delayed.

One of the things that did bother me was the decrease in pressure while on my flight to Chicago. I got this horrible pain above my left eyebrow. When my flight landed, the pain went away but I looked it up to see what it was. I found out that it was because of the pressure and other people experienced the same excruciating pain. I was afraid the pain would come back on the 13 hour flight to Japan but nothing happened. Also, 13 hours in a plane is very long. Half way through the flight I didn’t know how to sit anymore. The good thing was that United Airlines provided a lot of foods and drinks.

The moment I landed at Incheon International Airport, passed through immigration and picked up my bags, I felt out of place. There were signs in English so I didn’t get lost but being a country different from my own made me feel lost. I knew from the beginning it wasn’t going to be easy getting used to South Korea. It was too late to turn back anyway and I certainly didn’t want to be stuck on a plane for so many hours again anytime soon.

February 24 I checked into my dorm at International House on campus. The process went by easily when I gave them my paperwork and they gave me my room key. My roommate wasn’t in yet so I had the dorm to myself for a few hours. I unpacked a few things, went to get something to eat and took a nap once I got back to my dorm.

I met my roommate later on that night and found out she’s Hispanic just like me. It was comforting that I could speak to someone in Spanish if I wanted.

Orientation was the following day and that went on from 9 a.m. to almost 10 p.m. It ended nicely with the Mentors Club taking the exchange students to dinner. I was able to meet other exchange students and make friends. After a few days of settling in, I went exploring with a few friends to see what was nearby. I also found out Korean food is very spicy.

I think I’ll save culture shock and the other adventures I’ve been on for another entry.

Yonsei University

Taking a picture of these guys taking a picture of Yonsei

Nightlife in Seoul, South Korea

Spicy Ramen with Dumplings from Food Cafe

4 comments

  1. Hola Tatiana,

    My name is Amanda. I just happened to find your blog post on here regarding South Korea. I’m currently doing the waiting process to be accepted into Yonsei for the Fall of 2014. I’m glad that you are having a good experience in South Korea so far, aside from feeling out of place. I imagine you are going to feel out of place for a while before getting entirely used to being in a different country. Good luck adapting to the new culture and learning the language. :)

    Ouch, I’m sorry that you had an awful plane ride that even caused pain because of a drop in cabin pressure; I can imagine that isn’t fun at all. The long flight does sound very draining though. I do personally like that you get to fly into Japan before going to Korea; at least now you can say you have been to both countries. Lol

    Wow! The orientation was an all day thing? That’s interesting and pretty cool. Did you have a week or a few days after arriving in South Korea that your classes began? Also, are you taking any of the language classes? If so, are you enjoying them so far?

    1. Hey Amanda,

      That’s really good you’re interested in going to Yonsei and applied. What are you majoring if you don’t mind me asking? It takes time getting used to a different country with a completely different language but I’m adapting, slowly but I’m getting there. I just keep reminding myself that if I had quit earlier I would have regretted it. If you’re excited to go to South Korea and experience something new then you’ll do fine here.

      It was painful (I thought my eye would pop out), but thankfully it only happened during my flight to Chicago. When cabin pressure changes it usually affects my ears so this was the first time I felt it above my eyebrow. I’m taking my pain relievers in my carry-on next time. No one should have to go through that type of pain. You have to find ways to entertain yourself on long flights or sleep if you can. I watched all three Lord of the Ring films, a Korean variety show called Running Man and TV shows on the 13 hour flight because the airline provided all that. It was pretty cool landing in Japan at Narita International Airport.

      It was all day but provided with snacks and milk. We also got to eat dinner with the Mentors Club, which is a helpful club where you can make new friends. Yeah, we had a week to settle in before classes started on March 3. I came here mostly to take mass comm courses. My advisor at USFSP couldn’t approve a Korean language course since it’s not offered at USFSP. I’m not sure if it’s different with USF, so if that’s your home campus I suggest talking to either Rene Sanchez or your advisor if you’re interested in taking a Korean language course. If you’re curious about anything else just let me know :)

      1. I’m glad that you are able to adapt well and without difficulty. I’m majoring in English at the Tampa campus. I plan to take literature/history/ political science classes and one of the Korean language classes since I’m also minoring in Asian Studies. I guess it is a bit different between the USF and USFSP campuses; I wasn’t aware that you wouldn’t have been able to sign up for Korean classes. I learn something new everyday.

        I think I will learn from your experience and pack some Tylenol to take on the plane when ever I leave for Korea. lol

        What is your daily schedule like? Do you have time to do anything besides school during the week? I’ve been watching videos on YouTube regarding travel to Yonsei is why I’m asking; most students there seem like they get close to 5 or 6 hours sleep every night and the rest of the time is spent studying.

        1. When you register for classes using Yonsei’s system, always make sure your courses are taught in English. It seems like common sense but trust me, it happens. One of the students from USF who’s currently at Yonsei had to fix their schedule during the add/drop period because they found out the courses were in Korean. It wasn’t difficult because USF Education Abroad will work with the department head and financial aid to get the courses approved and SAE form finished. Yes, USF and USFSP have different guidelines for study abroad. I’m able to sign up for any study abroad program at USF but since USFSP is my main campus I have to do all the approvals through their offices.

          My classes are from Tuesday to Friday, sometimes I’ll have one class for an hour on certain days while others I just have two hour breaks in between. I usually plan fun things on the weekend and Mondays, so I do have time to do things other than school. I think it depends on how you handle your time, your study habits, etc. Right now it’s easy for me to have time to visit places like Gangnam, Myeongdong or a music company building but in a month midterms start as well as group projects and papers to write so I won’t have that extra time anymore. You’ll have time to explore Seoul and other popular places though.

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